Nowadays, the term drone is usually used to describe remotely controlled flying craft and, more specifically, quadcopters. However, a drone is an unmanned aerial vehicle (or UAV) and can refer to a multitude of flying machines including model airplanes, helicopters, gliders and the aforementioned quadcopters.
It should be pointed out that drones also include crafts designed for use on water or land (and even robots) but, for the purposes of this review, I will adhere to the generally accepted view of a drone being a remotely controlled flying machine. The first decision to be made is which type of aircraft you want and start your search for the best drones from there.
Things to Consider When Buying a Drone
Everything depends on the purpose you want the drone for. Is it merely a toy to fly around the local park or do you intend to use it for serious flying or even commercial purposes? The following are some of the most important details to consider.
- Intended Use. If you only want a toy to fool around with, then cheap and cheerful is the obvious choice. Taking it a step farther, if you are a serious drone hobbyist then you will have to go more up market and look for a stronger, more stable craft with aerobatic capabilities.
- Camera. Quite a number of drones sold today come with an onboard camera. Most, but not all! If you require a camera for private or commercial reasons, you will have to decide the quality level you need. The better the camera; the bigger the price.
- Flying Range. Cheaper, basic drones can be controlled up to a maximum distance of about 1,000 feet while bigger (and more expensive) models have a range of many times that distance. If you intend to fly beyond your line of sight then an onboard camera is a must as it the only way to avoid losing your craft forever.
- Flying Time. The old fashioned method of refueling your aircraft is a thing of the past as modern drones are now powered by lithium ion batteries. The size and power of the battery will determine how long the craft can stay aloft. Flying times can vary from mere minutes for smaller craft to over an hour for the bigger models.
- Control Device. Although some drones (few) are flown by via an app, the vast majority use a remote control transmitter. This is rarely an issue but something to be aware of before purchasing any drone.
Top 10 Drones Comparison Chart
|Picture||Make/Model||Type/ Camera Y/N||Flying Range/ Flying Time||Rating (1-5)|
|1. Holy Stone HS170 Predator Mini RC Helicopter||Quadcopter/ No||Up to 50 meters/6-8 minutes||4.5|
|2. DJI Phantom 3 Advanced Quadcopter Drone||Quadcopter/ Yes||Up to 5 Km/25 minutes||4.5|
|3. Holy Stone F181 RC Quadcopter Drone||Quadcopter/ Yes||Up to 100 meters/10 minutes||4.5|
|4. Syma Toys X5C-1 Explorers 4 CH Remote Control Quadcopter||Quadcopter/ Yes||Up to 50 meters/8 minutes||4.4|
|5. BLADE Nano QX BNF Quadcopter||Quadcopter/ No||Up to 40 meters/10 minutes||4.4|
|6. Haktoys HAK905 7" Diagonal 2.4GHz 4CH RC Quadcopter||Quadcopter/ No||Up to 100 meters/8 minutes||4.3|
|7. DBPOWER Hawkeye-I Quadcopter 3D Flip 2.4GHz||Quadcopter/ Yes||Up to 30 meters/9 minutes||4.3|
|8. Q500 Typhoon Quadcopter with 1080P 60FPS HD Video Camera||Quadcopter/ Yes||Up to 500 meters/25 minutes||4.3|
|9. UDI U818A-HD 2.4GHz 4 CH 6 AXIS Headless RC Quadcopter||Quadcopter/ Yes||Up to 100 meters/9 minutes||4.3|
|10. QCopter QC1 Drone Quadcopter with HD Camera||Quadcopter/ Yes||Up to 100 metres/15 minutes||4.3|
Top 5 Best Drones Reviews
There are bigger, faster, longer-flying and certainly more expensive drones on the market but for an entry-level drone the Holy Stone HS 170 Predator is the best choice. Weighing in at less than half a pound and less than six inches in length, the Predator is small and lightweight but amazingly stable in flight even in breezy conditions.
From the outset, the Predator is simplicity itself. Easy to assemble, and simple enough for even a beginner to learn to fly in minutes, the drone is a joy from day one. As you would expect from a small drone, there is no onboard camera but this is not necessary for novice flyers who merely wish to have fun and learn the basics of flying drones. Technically, the Predator delivers well as a single charge (which takes about an hour) is sufficient for up to eight minutes flying time and a range of forty to fifty meters is more than adequate for hobby flyers.
Pound for pound, or should that be ounce for ounce, the HS 170 Predator drone is top of the class as the most affordable and best drone for absolute beginners and novice flyers.
This is the daddy of them all! Eighteen inches long and almost nine pounds in weight, the Phantom 3 is a serious piece of kit and packed full of amazing features.
The Phantom 3 Advanced features a 1080 pixel fully HD video camera which delivers smooth video and sharp still photographs and the drone is fully stabilized to avoid shaky or blurred images. With a flying range of up to five kilometers and flying time of around twenty-five minutes, the Phantom 3 uses Lightbridge technology to allow live streaming of video to the remote control unit or to your phone via an app to let you see what the drone sees.
GPS navigation and automatic take-off and landing settings are standard and there is even a database of no-fly zones built into the Phantom’s memory to avoid straying into forbidden areas around airports or military bases.
Despite all the bells and whistles, the Phantom 3 Advanced is relatively easy to pilot and even complete beginners are soon up and flying using the unique Beginner’s Mode. Top of the range in terms of functionality and performance, the Phantom 3 advanced doesn’t come cheap but you get one of the best drones to buy today for a reasonable outlay.
Another excellent drone from Holy Stone, the F181 is a step up the flying ladder from the HS 170 Predator. The F181 is bigger and heavier than the Predator at just over a foot long and almost a pound and a half in weight. The bigger size is necessary as the F181 carries a 1280 pixel camera which delivers high-resolution still photographs and smooth video images.
A bigger battery than the Predator means the F181 has a longer flying time at ten minutes and the flight range is almost double that of its smaller relation at 100 meters. Fitted as standard, the Headless Security System means that, with the push of a button, the drone will return to base which is a nice feature for those occasions when the drone gets out of control.
If you are looking for a mid-range drone and want a camera on board, which is always a nice idea, the Holy Stone F181 is just about perfect in this regard.
One of the most popular quadcopter drones, the X5C-1 Explorers is extremely manoeuvrable and fast for its size and weight. A medium sized quadcopter at just over a foot long and a pound and a half in weight, the X5C-1 does all you expect and more for its very reasonable price tag.
Flying time of around eight minutes and a range of approximately fifty meters is about what you would expect from a mid-range drone and better than a lot of the competition. The remote control unit uses 2.4GHz technology which eliminates the annoying problem of interference from other nearby radio signals.
The quality of video from the onboard camera is good but not great but the flying stability delivered by the 6-axis flight system means that the images are clean and sharp. Yes, the camera quality could be better but, for the price, the X5C-1 Explorers cannot really be faulted.
Three short words perfectly sum up the BLADE Nano QX BNF Quadcopter; Fun! Fun! Fun! Tiny at under an ounce in weight and seven inches tip to tail, the QX BNF looks like a child’s toy but is far from it.
The QX BNF is a bit too lightweight to fly outdoors unless in the calmest of conditions. However this is possible but the tiny quadcopter comes into its own when flying indoors. Very manoeuvrable and agile, this little flying machine is very stable in flight and very easy to control. For absolute beginners, or in times of trouble, the quadcopter uses SAFE technology (Sensor Assisted Flight Envelope) which means the quadcopter will go into automatic hovering mode when you just let go of the controls. And by switching from SAFE to Agility Mode you can increase both the craft’s speed and manoeuvrability.
Ready to fly straight from the box and with a flying range of over 100 feet and a flying time approaching ten minutes, the Nano QX BNF merits a mention in any listing of the top entry-level drones. Stable, sturdy and inexpensive, the Nano QX BNF is one of the best drones for indoor flying and great fun for both beginners and seasoned flyers.